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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 27, 9:05 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reed Gym (3,040) -- Pocatello, Idaho. Television: None.Home Record: NAU 7-4, ISU 8-3. Away Record: NAU 4-10, ISU 2-11. Neutral Record: NAU 0-2, ISU 0-1. Conference Record: NAU 8-8, ISU 7-9. Series Record: Idaho State leads, 50-43.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks pull into Reed Gym in Pocatello tonight to tangle with the Idaho State Bengals in Big Sky Conference action.
With the regular season winding down, the Lumberjacks are hoping to put an end to a three-game slide which has brought them down to 8-8 in conference play and subsequently tying them with Portland State, Eastern Washington and Montana State all for sixth place in the standings heading into action on Thursday.
NAU, which is five games under .500 on the season overall, is coming off a 75-63 setback versus North Dakota at home on Saturday. The team will drop in on Weber State two nights from now, and then host both Montana State and Montana next week to close out the regular season.
As for the Bengals, at 7-9 in conference they are buried near the bottom of the standings, but with so many teams caught in a log jam just ahead of them, a couple of wins and some help from those other schools could easily turn the tide. ISU has dropped back-to-back decisions, the most recent of those being a narrow 62-61 setback versus Montana over the weekend on the road.
The Bengals are ahead in the all-time series by a count of 50-43, although it was NAU that won the first meeting of the season earlier this month at home by a narrow 67-65 final. The 'Jacks have in fact won three straight over Idaho State heading into tonight's affair.
NAU led by a point at the half against North Dakota over the weekend, but then the defense for the hosts became a bit too lax as it allowed the visitors to connect on 57.1 percent from the field, including 5-of-7 behind the 3-point line, over the final 20 minutes of action. Long-time starter Quinton Upshur came off the bench for the Lumberjacks and finished with a team-best 18 points, followed by Kris Yanku with 15 points, to go along with five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Because he was a starter in 25 of the first 27 games of the season for the Lumberjacks, Upshur is the leading scorer for the program with his 15.5 ppg, having made good on a team-best 58 shots from behind the 3-point line. Aaseem Dixon (11.6 ppg) is the other sharp shooter from long distance for the program with 46 connections out on the perimeter, which means between he and Upshur they've accounted for all but 35 of the unit's 3-point baskets on the campaign.
All but one of the starters scored in double figures for the Bengals the last time out, but even that was not enough to get the team over the hump against Montana on the road at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula. Tomas Sanchez led the charge with 17 points, followed by Andre Hatchett and Chris Hansen with 13 points apiece, while Jeffrey Solarin came up a rebound shy of a double-double as he tallied 10 points before fouling out.
In conference play this season, Hansen is averaging more than 35 minutes per game, which explains why he is leading the squad in scoring in those 16 outings, sporting 17.3 ppg. Hansen has been doing a good bit of damage out on the perimeter where he is 40.7 percent accurate these days. Also lending a hand from long range is Sanchez (14.4 ppg) who has converted 37 of his 63 field goals in league action from beyond the arc.
Playing in the smaller of the two venues at Idaho State tonight, the Bengals should have an advantage from a more compact crowd that could give the visitors fits, but still don't count out the Lumberjacks given how much is riding on these last few games of the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Arizona 68, Idaho State 63
02/27 10:16:02 ET
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